Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway: John Stamos and Company Rock the House
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This Birdie holds the further distinction of being the first Broadway revival of the 1961 Tony-winning musical since its debut - with Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera - on April 14, 1960. And while the original cast overflowed with big-name performers of the likes of Paul Lynde and Kay Medford, they have nothing on the big-name stars and Broadway veterans who are filling the lead roles this time around, including Gina Gershon, whose last Broadway venture involved playing a sexy Italian flight attendant in the hit farce Boeing Boeing.
"Birdie is definitely a time-capsule piece," says Gershon, who played the same role once before - in junior high school. "It was the very first musical I was ever cast in, and I wanted to play Conrad Birdie. But they gave me Rosie."
At the time, Gershon, whose rebellious teen years were just taking shape, would have had a great time embodying Conrad Birdie (an Elvis knock-off whose name was inspired by country singer Conway Twitty), but in her current incarnation as Rosie on Broadway, she's clearly in her show-stopping element - especially when she launches into her sizzling "Spanish Rose" number.
Still, it's the kids in Birdie that have impressed the versatile Gershon. "They're all actual 15- and 16-year olds who look like they're 12. They really cute and innocent looking - which is really nice to see," she observed after watching them in an early rehearsal of "Telephone Hour".
And she's so right. Unlike in the 1963 film version, where a 22-year old Ann-Margret played Kim (and jump-started her sex-kitten career), these kids are kids - super-talented kids with amazing careers ahead of them - but most definitely adolescents playing star-struck teeny-boppers - and their male counterparts - to perfection.
The adults aren't bad either.
In short, this new mounting of a musical comedy classic lives up to the upbeat lyrics:
"Oh, Life's a ball
If only you know it
And it's all just waiting for you...
So come on and show it...
We've got a lot of livin' to do!"
Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Bye Bye Birdie began previews on September 10 and officially opened on Broadway October 15 at the new Henry Miller's Theatre (124 W. 43rd Street) for a limited run through January 10, 2010. For reservations call 212-719-1300 or visit www.roundabouttheatre.org. For an insider look at the cast and production, and to sample musical numbers, visit www.byebyebirdieonbroadway.com/home. Ticket prices range from $86.50 - $141.50.
Directed and choreographed by Robert Longbottom (Side Show; The Scarlet Pimpernel; Flower Drum Song), Bye Bye Birdie in its new venue opens the door to increased Roundabout education outreach efforts and lower priced tickets to families and students. Education@Roundabout also has plans to expand its development workshops for educators and experimental learning opportunities for students through partnerships with schools and onsite after-school programs for teens.